Happy Thanksgiving weekend, in Canada at least! I hope all my fellow Canadians have wonderful plans to relax, eat good food and enjoy good company while also getting an extra day off work. Usually missing a day of class means your teacher assigns you extra homework, but somehow in two of my classes I don’t even have homework. I don’t even have any readings assigned. I’m sure this is some kind of first year perk I will miss in the coming years. Overall I’m enjoying school, it’s really pushed me out of my comfort zone on so many levels and that’s probably good for me. I’ve almost made a friend, we sit in class together and that’s the most face to face human interaction I get in a given week (not counting my husband). You might think that’s really awful, but that’s actually really good for me.
I never realized how much social anxiety I actually had until I was tossed into a bunch of classrooms with 100+ people and forced to work in groups with strangers. When your constant thoughts are “Will they think I’m weird” or “If I don’t talk enough will they think I’m stuck up/not interested” and other things that are similar to the general “please don’t hate me I just have really bad social anxiety” it makes it really hard to actually talk to people normally. In the 6 weeks I’ve been in french class I have not talked once, except when forcefully paired with someone else (twice?). They say participation is important, and sometimes I really wish I would speak up, especially when I know the answer, but its like there is a stopper. No matter how hard I try, the words get caught in my throat and I start to have a panic attack.
I just recently started trying to give people friendly smiles. Even saying hello to the person next to me when I sit down is difficult. The profs keep driving home “This is where you will meet friends for a lifetime” and I’m like “If I can meet ONE person who isn’t scared off by my extreme silence and awkwardness I will be happy”. I am a social person, so I’ve been trying to keep in touch through social media so that I get some interaction with live human beings, but I still hardly leave my house. This is bad on so many levels because I have struggled in the past with agoraphobia, to the point where the only time I left my house was to go to work or get food and even that caused me anxiety. So I really have to force myself outside!
I guess the point I’m trying to get at here is, how do you deal with social anxiety? How do you learn to have a conversation with someone? People aren’t predictable, it’s not like lines you can rehearse. With the exception of “Hello, how are you”, after that you’re on your own. You have entered into the world of unknown conversation land. And sure practice makes perfect, but you actually need someone to practice with. Somehow there has to be a way to get over the intense fear of people. How do you erase so many years of bullying and people judging you, all so you can make a single friend in a strange city? I haven’t figured it out yet.